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How to look good–with duct tape

By Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:57:00 04/20/2011

Filed Under: Photography, Celebrities, Entertainment (general)

A FEW weeks ago, photographer Raymund Isaac wrote an article for the Inquirer titled, ?How To Look Good Without Photoshop.? He enumerated several tips and tricks that he resorts to, so his subject would look amazing even without that famous (and, at times, infamous) piece of software.

He advised eating a low-salt diet before a photo session, stretching the chin for those whom gravity hasn?t been very kind to, getting the right amount of sleep, raising the eyebrows for a bright-eyed look, drinking lots of water, and saying ?A? instead of ?cheese.? (He gave Rob that last tip when he took our engagement pictures.)

I definitely agree with all these things. That said, there were a few things he overlooked?things that I shall add from a subject?s perspective.


You?ve probably heard of a girdle?that stretchy, binding bit of underwear normally worn by mothers and grandmothers to smooth out bulges beneath their clothing. The current synonym for ?girdle? is ?Spanx.?

Spanx is actually a brand of undergarments collectively named ?body shapers.? They?re worn underneath a sparkly gown, a clingy dress, or even a pair of trousers. These undergarments come in different fits and address different requirements. Some fit the whole body from the chest to the hips, while others focus on the lower body.

It?s important to wear the right underwear for a shoot because visible panty lines aren?t exactly appealing. Although they probably could be easily erased by Photoshop, it?s so much better if one can eliminate this tedious step by simply putting on a body smoother.

For a shoot, I make sure to bring a strapless bra, a bodysuit and a lower body smoother, because I?ll never know what the stylist would bring, as far as clothes are concerned.

Hilarious reality

There?s a fabulous photo of Patricia Heaton on the back cover of her book ?Motherhood and Hollywood: How to Get a Job Like Mine.? She is wearing a fabulous black strapless evening gown, held together at the top by large strips of duct tape and at the bottom by a big clamp. This is the hilarious reality that is often the secret of many of the looks one sees in magazine editorial spreads and celebrity stories.

Oftentimes, a stylist would pull clothes off a designer?s rack, irrespective of the model?s body type, height or weight. Sometimes these clothes would fit perfectly. In other instances, the gown would be either be too loose or too tight, or too long. Same goes for shoes.

An experienced stylist would come in with these necessities: double-sided tape, large safety pins, masking tape, clamps and, maybe, even a stapler. The point is to make whatever clothing the model is wearing look good for the photograph.

Next step is to actually strike a pose?the right pose will make for a striking photo.

Ouch, my back!

A lot of photographers would put a full-length mirror in front of a model to see what the pose would look like. However, what the photographer sees can be completely different, and appear totally unlike what the mirror reflects.

I?ve been photographed in some strange positions?my upper body twisting like a pretzel, my legs contorted into something painful. It felt unnatural, and a cramp was threatening to form, but through the lens, it?s something fantastic to look at.

For a portrait, the session is easier but entails a lot of trust and communication between photographer and model. In a span of 30 seconds, I?ll hear a quick litany of instructions: ?Chin up, look down, eyes to the left, look at the light, head tilted, tilt some more, head to the other side, there, that?s it. Okay, take a break.? Each comma indicates a shutter click.

Hair and makeup

Of course, lastly, there?s hair and makeup to make sure the photo would turn out flawless.

I?ve worked with some of the most amazing people in the industry. They have dealt with just about every skin type, and covered a myriad of flaws. When I?m having a bad skin day, I am relieved when the person with the brush is an expert at covering this up.

As for hair, I place my trust in the hands of someone who is skilled and gifted with a brush, curling irons, hair dryers, spray and an assortment of pins. I also bring along a set of hair extensions to vary the looks for the shoot.

So, there you have it!

Photoshop is a great tool, but it?s not the be-all and end-all of a perfect photo. A lot of work goes into it, courtesy of flesh-and-blood humans, great clothes and a roll of duct tape.

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